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Free Daily Bible notes by Rev Stephen Thompson



Daily Bible thoughts 772: Thursday 18th December 2014:

 Isaiah 58

‘’You cannot fast as you do today and expect your voice to be heard on high.’’ (4b)

There is nothing wrong with fasting. It is part of the normal Christian life. Jesus showed this in His ‘Sermon on the Mount’, saying, ‘’When you fast…’’ (Matthew 6:16). There is no ‘if’ about it; it’s ‘when’. (See also Matthew 6: 2 and 5. Jesus expected His disciples to give, pray and fast. If you want to look at this subject more deeply, I suggest reading John Piper’s excellent book, ‘A hunger for God.’)

However, there is a way of fasting that is totally wrong and Isaiah 58 points this out. Someone who fasts can ‘’seem eager’’ (2b) spiritually, and we may be impressed with their intensity. It as ‘’as if’’ they were very saintly. But God has ‘x-ray’ vision and sees past the appearance of things. ‘’ When you strive to be a spiritual person, you fight the constant battle of ‘’ritual versus reality.’’ It is much easier to go through the external activities of religion than it is to love God from your heart and let that love touch the lives of others.’’ Warren W. Wiersbe: ‘With the Word’, p.488. Here are three ways in which your fasting can be ineffective:

  • If you do not turn from your sin. God had been calling again and again to His people through Isaiah; pleading with them to repent. The majority would not. You cannot expect fasting, important as it is, to cut any ice with heaven while you are holding on to your favourite sins. Psalm 66:18 provides an important comment on the whole subject.
  • If you still continue to do it your way (3b, 13). This is closely related to the above point. If you go to church on a Sunday (or give yourself to some other special set aside time to seek God), but return home to live as you did before, going your own way and doing your own will, don’t expect any prayer and fasting to bring about the desired change in your circumstances. It doesn’t work like that. Without submission to the Lordship of God you are merely going through an empty religious ritual. Fasting was intended to be a means of self-humbling before God. ‘’The orthodox faith was popular in Judah at that time, and people enjoyed learning the Word and even participating in fasts (vv.2-3). But when the services were over, the worshippers went back to exploiting people and pleasing themselves.’’ Warren W. Wiersbe: ‘With the Word’, p.488.
  • If you do not care about issues of injustice in the world and take appropriate action; serving the poor and needy as you have opportunity.

‘’The kind of fasting you do won’t get your prayers off the ground.’’ The Message.

That is all negative. However there is a way in which we can be ‘’heard on high’’ as we pray and fast. We should not miss this point. Those who genuinely seek God with fasting, turning from their sinful ways and their own wilful paths; serving all around them who need their help; such people will experience immense blessing from God (6-14). As Wiersbe says, your life can become a ‘’watered garden, not a dismal swamp.’’

Prayer: I choose not to give up on fasting, but to give up on sin and self-pleasing.

Daily Bible thoughts 769: Monday 15th December 2014:

Ephesians 2: 11-22

As I read this, I am reminded that when God called Abraham, it was so that through him and his descendants the whole world would be blessed (Genesis 12: 1-3). That blessing has now come to us.

The people to whom God gives new life, be they Jews or Gentiles, are being built into a new society, the church, in which Jesus Christ has primacy (20b). This ‘’holy temple in the Lord’’ (21) is built on the Scriptures of Old and New Testaments (20a) and is indwelt by the Spirit. It is made up of people who were once estranged from each other but who now find their focus of unity in Jesus (14-16).

If today’s passage can be thought of as a painting, I believe verse 13 is the nail (or hook) on which it hangs. The entire section may be summed up in these words: ‘’But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ.’’ Before conversion we Gentile Christians experienced a ‘double estrangement’:

a.) We were estranged from the Jewish people and their privileges (11, 12, 19a; see Romans 9:1-5). We were at a distance from the revelation of God they had that enabled them to know something about Him and relate to Him: ‘’Now because of Christ – dying that death, shedding that blood – you who were once out of it altogether are in on everything. The Messiah has made things up between us so that we’re now together on this, both non-Jewish outsiders and Jewish insiders. He tore down the wall we used to keep each other at a distance…Instead of continuing with two groups of people separated by centuries of animosity and suspicion, he created a new kind of human being, a fresh start for everybody…That’s plain enough, isn’t it? You’re no longer wandering exiles. This kingdom of faith is now your home country. You’re no longer strangers or outsiders. You belong here, with as much right to the name Christian as anyone.’’ The Message;

b.) More importantly however, we were estranged from God Himself. But through Jesus; through His cross (16, 18) we have access to God. I understand that in the Temple, there was a sign that told the Gentiles to keep out of the court of the Jews, on pain of death. That is all now resolved in Christ (14).

The ‘’He’’ in (17) refers to the Lord Jesus. Post-resurrection, He came to people and ‘’preached peace’’ to them. After His ascension, He continued this preaching ministry in and through the church. In fact, this ministry continues today. There is a double-peace for the double-estrangement. Through Jesus’ sacrifice we can have peace with God, and peace with every other person in Christ. There is a ‘’Consequently’’ (19) to the saving work of Christ: ‘’God is building a home. He’s using us all – irrespective of how we got here – in what he is building. He used the apostles and prophets for the foundation. Now he’s using you, fitting you in brick by brick, stone by stone, with Christ Jesus as the cornerstone that holds all the parts together. We see it taking shape day after day – a holy temple built by God, all of us built into it, a temple in which God is quite at home.’’ The Message.

Prayer: Thank you Lord that through Jesus’ sacrifice I have a relationship with you, and I have been brought into a big family with brothers and sisters all over the world. Thank you for this undeserved privilege.

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